Liebe, Liebchen.  Freizeit.

Liebe, Liebchen. Freizeit.

 

1.27.2019

January 27, 2019

The winter romances a person.  “Just for a bit, just a little,” begs January with the same light, from the same sun as summer.   Now that light teases as no warm kiss of air matches its brilliant, blinding light. The days lengthen to tease even more, but the wind persists with greater chill through February thaws, right up until those first ides of March.  I run outside for a moment, unable to control my longing for sunlight no matter how chilling.  I smile as I return to huddle indoors, hiding in sweaters among heaters and fireplaces.  And soup.  And hot cups of coffee.

Living in Wisconsin, I could care less at the duplicity of mother nature in winter  “Tickle me with chills.  Tease me with sunlight!” Minus thirty degrees Fahrenheit wind chills are nothing to fool with other than with my words.  “Oh, romance me winter.”

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  I think of my relatives.  I think of my father.  I think of the nostalgia of the 1940’s and the pain.  My eye catches the sunlight lighting my favorite chair, my spot for reading, writing and praying.  I think of my years of writing through my own distresses and my own pain.  I have so much more to write…

But today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It is the day which marks the Liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz.  I know of pain and I know of distresses but I know nothing of such suffering.  And because I do not know such suffering, I wish to write today, of meaning and beauty.

I was a naive twenty-two year old when I married for the first time.  In that marriage I had formed a dangerous, volatile union.  I had been determined to prove something, I guess.  There had been moments of innocent love.  There had been moments of struggling as a couple to survive financially.  There had also been moments of danger and of anger.

As we were separating, my grandmother’s health began to decline.  My mother would travel to take care of her, then call so that my father and I could talk with both of them.  The last time I spoke to my grandmother, we spoke over the phone.

“You are a Jew,”  she stated simply.  “We are Jewish.  We are Polish Jews.”

“Are you safe, Stephie?” my grandmother asked.

“Yes, I am safe, Grandma.”

My mother returned to the other end of the phone.  “Are you okay?” she asked me.  “Did you hear?”

“Yes, mom.  We are Jewish?”

“Yes.”

Within a month, at the age of twenty-six, I was a divorcee.  I felt tainted, but I was safe.  And not too long after that conversation, my grandmother, Ida Agnes, passed away.

My grandmother’s father was not an upstanding Jewish man.  He was more of the gypsy-type, those that scrounged, picked, dealt and resold.  Commandeering a horse and buggy, he picked through others cast-offs.  If you needed rags, he would get you rags.  He dealt in rags.

Jews such as my great-grandfather were called ‘Sheenies”.  He might have also been a bit of a drunk.  There is no glory or glamour to what or who he was.

I never press my mother too much upon when she knew of our ancestry.  When she was growing up, she could not even reveal she was Polish.  She tells of the story when she was a high school student in the fifties, when her class studied ancestry.  When it came to her turn in class, she said that her family was Bohemian, Belgian, German and Polish.  When her father learned of her listing of nationalities, he demanded that when she return to school the next day, she must retract her statement.  If she did not, he would.  She was to say that she had been mistaken.  She was not Polish.  She was Bohemian.  She was Belgian.  She was German.

She was not Polish.  My mother did as she was told to do.

If a person put a positive spin on her father’s – my grandfather’s – actions, I could conclude that to reveal a Polish ancestry would also reveal that she was a Polish Jew.  Perhaps it was for her own protection.

Um. No.  She was also banned from learning Spanish.

During World War II my grandfather, along with many workers in eastern Wisconsin, worked in aluminum and metal work factories.  Building everything from ship propellers to weaponry casings to submarines, that part of the state immersed  themselves in the efforts of wartime supplies.  My grandfather – the same one who denied my Polish ancestry – was also a neighborhood watchman, patrolling streets during practice blackouts and alerts.  With government contracts, these factory cities readied themselves for air attacks.

I look out again, at my writing window.  I have written before of the humor my mother and I find, thinking of my grandfather’s fondness for my grandmother’s cooking of potato pancakes.  At Christmas time, along with candies and trees, we would be treated to specialty plates of dried fruits and fruit filled doughnuts, colorfully arranged on Depression glass trays.  Perhaps he knew he was eating Jewish food, perhaps not.  I will never know.

The romance of that winter sunshine.

But my grandmother was cagey enough, I would believe, to have never told anyone.  I would never have a chance to ask her questions.  I would never know more except her words, “You are a Jew.”

I think of her life, surrounded by her husband’s family – my Great Aunt Libby, my Great Uncle Stephen – who were possibly the most prejudiced people who, even as a child, confused me with their odd sounding pronunciations, mixtures of Bohemian and German, and stern harsh voices who both scared me and loved me, and surrounded with the characters found in her own family (my Great Uncle Johnny, my Great Uncle Emmet and of course, my favorite, my Great Aunt Mae).  Both families were full of secrets and scandals (someday I will tell you tales of her sister, my Great Aunt Mae, whose story could best be prefaced with a wink. Or two. And a giggle.)

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The gift she gave me.

How strange it all is, the legacies of hatred, fear and secrecy.  More so, how curiously strange was the notion of the acceptability of the necessity of it all.  Even now, the child within me reminds me that there are desk drawers you just do not open.  Or if you do, you never mention what your eyes have seen.

But within her story, within that drawer, within those deadliest of secrets, lies the beauty of character, of strength, of survival.  There is, within those papers, a spirit passed from her hand to my eyes; from her lips to my ears.  My grandmother, knowing we were safe, knew she was safe enough to tell me, “You are a Jew.  We are Polish Jews.”

Many years ago, my father decided to honor my mother with a gift of a bracelet upon which one charm was her Star of David.  I never knew what my father thought about my mother’s heritage.  He had been raised Roman Catholic with a prideful Polish Irish French ancestry which he seemed to both revere and begrudge.  His stance, I believe, was no stance.  But the charm and his reverence was an intimacy with which he shared and honored my mother.  After he passed away, my mother duplicated the gift to me.

Hmmm.  The International Holocaust Remembrance Day, or The Liberation of Auschwitz.  Or,

May we remember those feet.  May we remember the feet of all who walked under the infamous sign.

May we remember those hands.  May we remember those hands who worked.

May we remember those eyes.  May we remember those eyes who looked up to the sky.  May we remember those eyes who looked to the sky, who looked upward to pray, past the black iron words, “Arbeit mach Frei.”

“You are a Jew.”

Freizeit.

Liebe, Liebchen.

~ Stephanie.

 

 

 

The New Year of Corporate Entrepreneurship.

The New Year of Corporate Entrepreneurship.

The thriftiness of aquamarine blue foundations
The January treasure of aquamarine foundations

January 13, 2019

Nonsense. Or, I will find out that twenty books and MBA theses have already been written on the topic of “Corporate Entrepreneurship.”

Eh. (I would insert shoulder shrug here, but that’s not really my style.) I pause. Okay.

Entrepreneurship.

I mailed $215, the application for reinstatement, the declaration of the number of outstanding shares of stock (really?), a statement of the declaration of change in ‘registered agent’ from an unknown agent in Green Bay to me, and the annual report for the company.  (What is a registered agent and why do I need one? Please insert side research, but in short, a registered agent of a business is the legal agent who would receive notifications on behalf of the company.  In the beginning, the registered agent seemed insignificant and a detail.  I had paid a legal online entity to take care of such matters. I am an art gallery and a real estate owner.  I am not a manufacturer. Surely I do not need a registered agent).  I mailed the entire package to the state department of financial institutions so that officially my company would exist and not appear as ‘administratively dissolved’ since 2016.

This ‘status’ had seemed to be one of those sidebar, pointless items of conducting business until a person tries to change any banking in the name of a corporation.  Regularly filing income taxes did not mean the company was okay.  Refiling with the state department of revenue did not mean the company was okay.  The key was the department of financial institutions.  When my mortgage note matured on my Esther Building, the bank who held the note, had themselves gone through a change in ownership and now needed the dissolution undissolved.

Naturally.

Simply Christmas
Simply Christmas

Home.

My December marked family times with an unexpected homecoming of my brother and gatherings of family members who had every reason to tear out each others hearts, but chose not to.  Every single one of them chose peace.

Between working long hours and stretches of long days, the month trudged along with no complaints from me other than a persistent exhaustion and a scrambling of my usual routine which I had abandoned some time ago.  December seemed to pronounce that deviation even greater with disguises of bright lights and merriment.

But I had family.  I had togetherness.  Sure I also had exhaustion, but all seemed correct.  Please – do not wait for the shoe to drop.  There was no shoe dropping in this story.  And maybe that is the best lesson I have had since I last wrote.

No drop of the shoe.

I had prepared writings of Hanukkah which I never published.  I had written cleverly with quip galore, but I did not feel worthy of any wit.  And I learned a long time ago that I certainly am not funny or clever.  Would I be honest if I wrote as such?  Would I be honest in such an attempt?  How honest would I have been to write and post pictures of Hanukkah candles which I managed to light in the windows of the gallery-to-be, yet at home I managed only two and a half candles on the menorah.  How honest is that?

I worked my hours.  My son returned home from his first semester at college.  Both he and my ex-husband decorated the outdoor lights at my home while I prepared the building.  The holiday season was upon us and I never quite dug out the Dickens Village pieces, but I had family together and we were happy with red and white lights, Christmas trees and a quarter lit menorah.

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2019.

I am fifty-three.  What happened to that old year, its energy, the memories, the lessons?  Waves.  Those 2018 waves which rushed through me are the same waves which now pull with fresh energy to embark.  Perhaps it is with age that I dream of bravery and an attempt at a sense of confidence.  Just as years tumble, wave rolling upon wave, new upon old, I tumble with wondering thoughts of dreams and my realities. My buildings, my dreams of the business of the gallery, and my dreams of my own creatives pursuits scare the creativity into me.  My family, my life and my career in a very corporate world scare the reality into me.

Corporate.

I am fifty-three loving a demanding management career in a corporate world.  In that world, I am a speck.  Not even a speck. I am a spec of a speck.  I could be spit out at a moments notice.  I could and will probably make no significant impact upon the corporate culture.  Yet, I love it.

From a corporation,  I have learned new lessons and remembered old lessons.  At first I thought I was too old for such experiences.  No amount of  “it is never too late” sayings could have convinced me otherwise.  I must admit that stayed in my craw as I toyed with the possibility that I am behind and past due.

But there was something about seeing Winds & Paradox being listed as ‘administratively dissolved’ on the state department’s website.  I had come so far.  While I had been busy through the years fighting to save a building or fighting for understanding of all what had happened to me or fighting myself to understand my life, I neglected something so rudimentary as the status of my business.

“My business”.  My creation. My Winds Paradox.  The memories spun the logic of ownership through me.  Winds Paradox was me. No, it was not me. Yes, yes it was.  Yes, it is a piece of me. Yes, it is an important piece of me.

The Matthias Building of Winds Paradox
The Matthias Building

And as I snapped some photos I allowed my heart and my head to engage as I attached the name, Winds Paradox.  It mattered.  It matters.

I filed the paperwork.  Well, truthfully, first I called the department.  (I might have called them four or five times because the first time I thought refiling with the department of revenue would reinstate the company.  I mean, I regularly pay my taxes, right? Of course I do.  I called the department of revenue, called the department of revenue again, then checked with my accountant who was filing an amendment to my taxes because we had made a mistake.  He instructed me to call the department of financial institutions.  Which I did. Four or five times.  To get it correct. To understand, of course.)

Now, you may think I am joking but I am serious.  I barraged them with calls because I really did not understand.  They explained and they explained again.  I understood a little more with each phone call.  And I filed the paperwork, on my own, the end of December 2018.

The check was cashed on Friday, January 4.  I checked the department website. No status change.

I called.

“Give us five working days.”

Wednesday I could wait no longer.  I know, I know.  My head does know mathematics and true, it was only three working days, but I was anxious.  Every time I checked, the status remained at “Administratively dissolved”.   I could feel my heart dropping.  I calibrated my own desire.  One lesson of these past few years is that I trust the human capacity for desire.  If a person desires, really wants, then a person will act.  I have learned that lesson in the most clumsy of fashions with my own excuses.  And I must confess I do not like them.

Wednesday marked my first day of my first five day vacation.  I really did not believe that in my first year on the job in corporate nirvana I would have any claim to personal days but I did.  And I took them to coincide with my son’s winter break between semesters.  Wednesday I began to recover from months of scrambling.

Another of my excuses.  Ugh.  Yuck and double yuck.  At fifty-three I had made my life so unmanageable and so scrambled…. Ugh! Excuses breed more excuses.  Boo hoo, Steph, get on with the story!  (I love rough talking myself. Grrr.)

Winds Paradox
Winds Paradox

As he looked over my paperwork, the department’s agent explained that they would be meeting on the corporate filings that Wednesday afternoon. He looked at my filing then proceeded to help me change wording which would have prevented it from approval.  I could not believe I was so close!  Three hours I would reach a goal!

Later that afternoon my phone rang with a number I knew from my four or five times calling.  The agent apologized.  He had missed that I had filed in 2018 but we were now in 2019.  I owed another $25 for the current year.  I would not be approved that afternoon.  I could, however, refile.  He emailed me my paperwork with department receipt stamps, a copy of his letter and instructions on how to expedite.  I was so close, I could feel the energy of success.  But I was not finished.  I had another step.  In a world of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ or ‘success’ and ‘failure’, I was still, well, a ‘no’.  How could one be so close yet not accomplished at all?

“Administratively dissolved” is one of those phrases which means nothing until it means everything.

No excuses.  Even in my small town, a person can mail a letter for overnight express delivery.  I needed to mail the forms and twenty-five dollars as soon as I could.  I suppose I could have waited, but that phrase hummed through my head.  The department would receive the letter by three in the afternoon on Thursday.  I mailed my submission.  I emailed the agent.  I checked the website on Thursday.  Still dissolved.

But on Friday, January 11th, after three in the afternoon, upon waking from a vacation midday nap, my company, Winds & Paradox Incorporated (dba Winds Paradox – but the state department does not, for financial purposes, concern itself with ‘dba’ …whew…) – my company, Winds & Paradox, was “Restored to Good Standing.”

In good standing.
In good standing.

I have wasted, unfortunately, $240, on many things in my life.  But not this.  I stare at the status no longer excusing myself.  But the status change cannot be a status.  I cannot stand.  I have to proceed.  No excuses.

Mistakes.  Gulp.  I look at that beautiful company status with worries of more mistakes to come and possible mistakes that will make me shake with deep fears of unveiling my supreme obvious stupidity and blatant, blind egotism and misguided notions of creative artistic abilities.

Excuses. No, Steph.

Mistakes?  Yes, Steph.  I will make mistakes.  And then, I will make more.

For 2019, I urge you:  Make mistakes!

Gosh, I love you.

Mwah,

~stephanie.

ps. Deserves repeating:  Please, go make mistakes…. I promise you I will be making them too..

Oh, and… I am writing again.  I am writing..

The Repercussion of Sarcastic Fashion

The Repercussion of Sarcastic Fashion

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September 19, 2018

I even get compliments. That’s how well I wear my fall favorite foot attire of rag socks and sandals. I cannot help it. It’s a “me” look. First wearing the coupled worn socks and sandals to be ‘tongue-in-cheek’, I quickly discovered that the fashion deities have their own sense of humor. I am now in lust permanently with socks and sandals…

……….

I could not get it out of my head, no matter how much I tried.  “Juvenile,” I scolded myself.  “Unnecessary,” I sneered with the worst self-loathing.  (As if the waste of time in my own expression somehow made the world turn slower).  “Pick it up,” I jeered again.  “You have better things to do and no one else is..” I drifted off in an argument quickly debunked by my own philosophy.  “Won’t you ever let this rest?”

Nope. I need to write.  For the ga-zillionth time I have wrestled with the replacement, any replacement – please! – for the need to write.

Nope. I need to write.  I would wish that urge on everyone although I would also pray for a dousing of talent to share the ride with such desire.  In my case I have discovered another unique desire of mine:  I need to struggle.  I will always and forever need to wrestle in my mind with thought, expression and words.

I think it is going to be a magical ride, indeed.

Enough commentary.  Let’s get on with life and my penchant for double negatives and redundant prepositions.  None of you are English teachers, are you?  I once was.  But that is another story.

Probably the most egotistical point in my life, among the many activities which I could label as ego-driven (but aren’t they all? Isn’t life just one ego-drive after another?  Especially if you are fortunate to have been born into civilization with immunizations and fresh water and no perpetual civil wars, you pretty much are engaged with yourself.  But not all humans are fortunate.  There are many who have none of the three conditions of modern life.  Miles to walk for fresh water.  Diseases spreading through populations.  Civil wars and corrupt governments with no moral codes or boundaries.)  The practice of selfie snapped portraits will never stop to amaze me.  And the ease of editting photography.

The clutter of Jeep dashboards – sharks, Snoopy and sunglasses…and the Son.

And the ease of communication.  And the various differences in the need of each of us to communicate.  I am astounded both at the existence of the variety of needs to reach out and the lessons the awareness of the variety of needs has taught me.  I am not the center of my universe although I could easily conclude so with the indulgence of social media.  But I like to think that it shows me even more than I am not.  The world is wide and inviting.  Even if I could not move or mobilize or be physical, I would still be both satisfied and grow even more desirous to explore the world.  What is Israel like?  I can take a virtual tour.  Satisfied? Yes.  But no.  I would like to see it again.  And now that I have seen it virtually thirty plus times, I would like to know how the wind across the Dead Sea smells.  What does the sand of the Jordan River feel like, pressed between my toes?

In these most recent years I have grown fond of sharing my life and chronicling daily.  At times I would write mercilessly every feeling, every thought, every situation.  Day after day.  Then I would combine stories with photography.  What does my world look like?  What are the every day things which inspire me?  Both practices answered the questions, “How do I get through the day?  How can I manage my feelings and my world?”

Today, like every day, I work and I write in my head and I take photos.  I am attending classes for my job in a city which is unfamiliar to me.  I love my work and I love the classes I am attending.  I am, again, fortunate, to work for a company which is providing me lodging and “per diem” to improve myself.  Oh sure, I am going to have to work hard. Of course, I am.  Of course!  And of course, I feel indebted.

That is kind of a nice feeling.

For my in-depth merchandising project, I am studying jewelry.  I have nine days to be as much of an expert as I possibly can be.  I found myself studying at lunch today.  Diagramming displays with my earbuds feeding my brain old Journey tunes, I wrote to my son a dream I have for him.  I hope he finds in life, moments in which he gives himself permission to be smart.  What an odd wish. I had hesitated to send it to him.  He never, I believe, had that issue.  But I had.  There are many reasons not to be smart which have nothing to do with anything.  But today, while diagramming, I gave myself permission to explore.  Not for even my own ego, not to show off, not to compete.  Not for my parents, not for a man, and not for spite.  Maybe for a company.  But maybe for me and my brain, to grow into myself.

Rain and coffee; angel and key.

And there is the regret, if I let it in.  I wish I had given that permission to myself years ago.  I wrote to my son, to please let himself be smart.  For him.  But I smiled as I wrote it for I saw that permission when we met over the weekend for supper.  (He is now away at college.) He brought his calculus with him.  I watched him solve problems while we waited for appetizers.  We talked of solutions while we ate.

I do believe that my son has taught me something too.  “Mom.”

“It’s ok to be smart.”

Blessings to you. I am grateful for your time here with me.

Love.  Lots and lots of love.  (After all, it’s not like pie!)

Just saying…giggle…

And a kiss.

~Stephanie

A Thoroughly Modern..Mensch.

A Thoroughly Modern..Mensch.

Thursday, March 8, 2018.

Annual occurrence, with the additional pressure of McDonald’s.  Somehow a fast food chain can activate itself to flip its golden M arch into a busty golden W, but I can repeatedly miss the boat.  March 8, Steph.  Every year.  It is International Women’s Day. A day in which hashtags drum upon hashtags and postings pop and feminist ideals highlight the media.

………………………………

Mensch.

I walked into the courtroom with a first glance at the clock.  Scheduled for 9:30, I had arrived with a comfortable cushion of thirteen minutes or so.  The circuit court judge, the court reporter and the clerk of circuit courts were already seated.  Their casual talk was easily heard but I could not now remember nor would I have ever been able to remember exactly what they were saying.  Upon seeing me enter, they too checked the clock.

The three made note of the time and my presence by glance.  With the judge’s instruction and invitation, I walked through the gated area to one of the two desks before the bench.  The three excused themselves, disappearing into what I imagined to be chambers or prep rooms behind the judge’s bench.  In the more historical courtrooms of the courthouse building, this room would be larger.  But I was thankful this morning for the smaller space.

It was shockingly modern in a historic building and about as non-Perry Mason a courtroom as would ever be imagined.  Yet, the conveniences of technology and the necessities of security envelop me.  Entrances and exits are tightly spaced with safety glass and security scanners.  The deputy whose presence in prior versions of this case unnerved me, was now comforting.  Large screen televisions dotted spaces in front of  empty juror chairs and lined the edges of ceiling and wall behind the gated area.

The judge himself and the circuit court staff were seated physically close to me, with each station equipped with individual computer systems.  They were labyrinths and mountains in this small world.  I was comforted by the formality of the distance between my desk and those of the court.  As I looked around, I imagined each step in that room was weighted with the different meaning of placement.  Step too close to the next gate, the one which separated plaintiff and defendant from the court officers, and it would have caused the deputy to stand.  One step further would have caused alarm.  One step.  Four steps behind me, back through the gate, and I would have no longer been a plaintiff.

But I had minutes.  I decided to walk the room because there was no one there.  I studied the thickness of exterior walls.  I had heard that the building is constructed as a brick veneer which means that the structure itself is not masonry or brick upon brick, but a wooden frame with stone facing.  If so, the framing would be thick, at least a foot here on the first floor.  The windows are proud, turn of the nineteenth century, three part windows with the upper most being a lovely leaded transom.  The interior doors leading into the room match them.  The sashes of the windows are thick, well-maintained, corded and clean.  The foot thick wood sill is polished warm, tanned oak.

I prayed.  I was nervous.  I waited for the last minute cancellation of the defendants ( a tactic I have since learned about, from the beginning of this process).  I looked out the window into the traffic, thinking of how ridiculous prayer would be, at a time like this.  I thought, as I watched delivery trucks and loggers, of how ridiculous would be the notion to ‘give it to G~d’ at this point.  This was a court of man, I rationalized.  G~d would have no place here.  I kept thinking of how thankful I was, learning my lessons during this process, a process which had begun in April 2017.

Eleven months passed as I watched those cars, blurring by the windows.  I am a landlord.  In April 2017 my then tenants in the residential space of my building paid me with checks from a closed bank account.  They had then refused to pay utilities which, up until now, I had kept in my name.  (Yes, that is correct.  I learn my lessons hard.)  The months from April until the court eviction of August 1, 2017 had been a succession of lessons for me, lessons as tough and bombastic as the blockheaded and egotistical notions of my own ignorance.

There is no ‘nice guy’ to the law.  There is the law.  And that is nice.  Odd, isn’t it?  The law is law.  In April 2017 I wrote my then tenants a letter to either pay or leave.  I gave them thirty days.  (I thought I was nice).  I might have been nice but it was not the law.  My tenants knew law.  My tenants also knew about how the law is enforced.

From April to August 2017 I was in court four times.  I did not realize at the time, but the court was moving fast.  I read about state statutes, about notifications, about legal wording and about the law enforcement and service professionals who I needed to employ in order to proceed to the next step.  The Five Day Notice to Cure.  Fourteen Days Notice of Termination of Tenancy.  The Court ordered Eviction.

In August 2017 I earned, from a court of law, an eviction.  A court ordered eviction is now part of the record of my former tenants which will surface on their records.  That, and the court declared they owed me $3049.

Evasion.  I am not sure, but I believe, as I stare out the courtroom window, that my tenants may have evaded the law, but me?  Who was I kidding.  I evaded me.  And that may not be law, but it was my lesson.

The judge reappeared.  I scampered from my observation point at the window, to the plaintiff’s desk in time for the traditional “All rise.”  (I do believe I heard the deputy chuckle.)

As the case was re-introduced, one of my former tenants walks through the door.  He is late.  I proceeded to outline my request for an increase, an amendment to the monetary judgment due to damages, cleaning and the additional expenses.  I have photographs.  I finish speaking.

It was my former tenant’s turn.

At first I did not listen.  I remembered my thoughts at the window.  How silly, I thought, to pray before court.  I do not expect G~d to save me.  I do not expect G~d to give me a positive result. In the minutes my former tenant spoke, I remember the first time in court.  I remembered learning, as he spoke in court, that people may say anything about another person, about me.  I remembered the first time I heard him say things about me that were not true.  I remembered how it stung.

Still, I did not realize the significance.  I had sat there, emotional, on the brink of tears.  I remembered thinking ‘How can he possibly say these things?  How can he lie?”  I had begun to defend myself, my character, to the court.

In my memory, I cringed at the thought.  Here I am, today, listening to the same voice.  Nothing.  And again I thought to myself, why would I believe now, to give this – this situation here – why would I believe now, to give this to G~d?  Why would I be so, so arrogant and so blatantly self-serving, to give this situation, to G~d?

I had given the documents, my exhibits, to the court.  The court accepted them.  I had enough copies for the defendant and the court.  I could have been clearer and more exact on some of the dates.  I listened. (Ok, I interrupted once.  Advice – don’t do that.)  But by and large, I listened.

The judge and the court officers left to decide upon my request for amended judgment.  The defendant and I left.  I stretched, walking to slurp at the water fountain. (Plus, I liked the comforting sound of footsteps upon the marble floors in the hallway. Such an old building! I imagined, with the silly hope of its history, secrets to seep onto my skin).  I welcomed returning to the comfort of the empty room, with the structure details still in my head and thoughts of why on earth would I “give it up to G~d”.  I sat again at the plaintiff’s station, my own desk for possibly thirty more minutes.

With me, in my seven dollar chantilly pink faux leather tote that looks like ‘the bomb’ of an outfit with my twenty-five year old black leather coat and an equally pink faux fur stole (three dollars, thank you), I had packed extra paperwork, my weekly schedule, to complete during any wait time.  “Thank G~d” for my schedule which I never quite follow yet by which I feel totally guided.  I smiled.  “Thank G~d indeed.”  I had been praying all along as I reasoned about the silliness of prayer, here, in court, by myself.

 

The court awarded me an additional $450.  In order to collect the nearly four thousand dollars, I now need an attorney.  The money is a significant sum.   Greater is the lesson of  finding kindness in an increased knowledge of the law.  Along the way I found expertise and professionalism of others to a level of which I could only aspire.

In that courthouse, a building which I have passed by my whole life, I realized the truth of others lies and the warning, the reminder to myself, to never allow theirs to become  truths of my own.  I regret I had not learned these lessons earlier.

The court awarded me a resolution I sought but had not earned.

………………………

My son arrived home from school hours later.  He grabbed a broom to knock icicles off the eaves.  I stood in the doorway, watching for Wally, as we recounted our day.

He smiled that smile. And I remembered.  I remembered standing in the windows of a courtroom earlier.  I shut my eyes remembering the wonderment of giving it to G~d.  “Why should I pray in a courtroom?” I had thought as I had uncovered my stacks of attachments for my court exhibit.

I remembered months.  Then, I did not.

You see, the wind came up, through our woods. My ears tingled, tickling my eyes to open.

“You are welcome,” the Wind breathed in my ear.

Thank you.

Love, lots and lots of love.

And a kiss. (for luck, just saying.)

~Stephanie

 

Proposing a Lioness Adventure, (with soot. dirt. smudges.)

Proposing a Lioness Adventure, (with soot. dirt. smudges.)

The vying of moon, buds to burst, sentinel pines and soot-stained stars and stripes.

March 1, 2018

Majestic.  The sky’s contest, a vying among the then waxing moon, the awakening buds of a virile maple, my ever-diligent sentinel pines and, of course, my old stars and stripes.  Which one is the prouder?  Which one is the most apt frame for bluest blue skies?  Majestic.  And a heady question to delight my eyes and tantalize my mind.

Nope. You haven’t missed a holiday. (At least I don’t think so.) I just liked the picture, my old flag with white stripes now stained with dirt blown through trees and the soot of smoke from bonfires.  Even though the metal clips are now replaced with unceremonious yellow plastic ties, it flaps through the breezes, royal, even if its permanent perch is the four by four post of my deck back in the woods.

I have stories to tell you and a promise to keep as I was thinking about writing.  As I wrote in my head – which I do a great deal of the time – I noticed how “nifty neato” it would be to tie things together with the proverbial “I awoke from the dream.  It had all been a dream.”

Um no.  I promise to never ever write that ending or those words.  That story line has to be the prayer of writers “Please, no matter what, please let me not resort to the ‘it had all been a dream”) We are, life is, my story, is not a dream.  Well, actually it sort of is. (Could I write any worse?)

‘One with the trusses.’ I had been wrong.  Higher up was easier.

The tempest of Wisconsin weather renewed my attention to the structure of the roof.  With earlier warmer temperatures, the roof scupper on the east side of the building had drained water.  I apologize for my attention to the roof, but I will not apologize.  The entire roof, 6800 square feet, had been replaced three years ago.  The roof is surprisingly peaked, not flat, supported underneath, in part, by four dramatically handsome 1923 steel Triple Howe trusses (I am still unsure about the type, but I believe I am on the right track).

After that thawing, the weather turned brutally cold.  My roofer, whom I almost have on speed dial in order to call through my panics about the roof, calmed my fears.  The new roof, although huge and with thick insulation (11 to 12 inches – R35 – thank you very much), is surprisingly light in comparison to the load of the old roof upon these same trusses and the roof’s supporting and stabilizing exterior walls.  I had time.

A longer thaw arrived five days ago. I turned up the temperature on the heaters I have placed near the roof drain pipes at the point in which they drop from the ceiling to the second, then first floor, and finally near the last larger six inch pipe in the basement which leads to the storm sewer in the alley.  I had bought two rolls of heat tape to attach to the east side drains which lead directly from two spots in the roof to the inside of the building.  I never had any freezing on the west side drains, but the east side I needed to prevent another ice build up as had happened last year.  Last year, the scuppers – the drain pipes which flow to the exterior, would spill off the water as the snow and ice melt.  A good fail safe to have, but not how a properly maintained roofing system should perform.

Four days ago I could procrastinate no longer.  The thaw was going to happen.  I needed to attach the heat tape.  It is one thing to climb a ladder to remove framing around the trusses but quite another to climb high enough to wrap electricians tape around the roof drain then attach the heat tape.  The end of the tape needed to go as high up as possible on the drain pipe, under the plywood decking, without actually touching that wood.

At first I allowed enough heat tape to extend upward.  I could not make myself climb higher than the first elbow in the pipe.  The piping’s elbow had iced the prior year, my roofer reminded me.  I climbed the ladder just high enough so that by stretching I could wrap the tape to secure the heating tape.  That particular drain pipe suspends above a clay-tiled closure which housed the old piping.  When you are above it, you can see straight down, two and one half stories, from underneath the roof to the basement floor.

Scared? I was oddly petrified. I hugged that ladder, proud with every wrap, yet scared.  And I knew I still had the worst to do.  I hadn’t wrapped from the elbow up to the roof, the most critical piece.

Two more days went by.  The day of the thaw.  I climbed, hugging the ladder.  I had forgotten or missed that there were old wooden rafters below that section of pipe.  My 18 foot ladder would not fit unless I aimed the ladder’s top into the spaces between those two by eights.  I aimed the ladder.  I walked the ladder.  This trial and error rearranging the ladder to fit in a spot I had not considered both drained and disgusted myself in myself.  But I had heat tape to attach.

I climbed.  Nor had I figured that I would need to go higher on the ladder.  Seemed like another obvious point, but I think I thought I could stretch a bit more to cover the last foot and a half of drain pipe.

I squeezed myself between the rafters and the ladder. I realized I was no longer looking up at the rafters nor a foot away from them.  I had pinned my body against the truss and hugged it.

I looked down.  I looked at the expanse across the tiled closure.  I hugged that truss.  Being higher up was easier.  I smiled.  I had ‘made it’ across the two and one half story drop.  I had left what I thought would be the most difficult because I was so scared of going higher.

No, Steph, no.  Smilingly, I reprimanded myself.  How thankful I was, that I had not wrapped the beginning part, the highest spot.  I would not have realized or appreciated it.  I had been terrified each step across the closure.  Here I was, higher up by at least two and half feet, but not reaching.  I was hugging the trusses.

 

 

Look closer.. the sunlight dances with the breath of ice crystal fog.

It is a non picture sort of picture, a Wisconsin day of snow among a line-up of such days, in a little piece of woods, in a non adventure of adventure.

I do happen to own two buildings, the youngest of which is a ninety five year old brick former armory and technical school, with the intent of really making my business a profitable one.  It could be a rather snobby existence but the business ownership and the creative processes are the personal passion.  I have a dream!

But the biggest adventure has been the adventures of nonadventure.  (Did I mention I am a huge fan of Yogi Berra-isms?  A sample, in case my references are dated, is “It isn’t over until it’s over.” Sigh.  Beautiful. True and succinct.)  Like these line-ups of Wisconsin snow days I have been recovering from years – no a lifetime – of, well, to state so politely, turbulence.  Of violence not of my own making.  Of harshness.

I love photography but rarely would I share, purposely, a nonpicture picture.  But to me it represents the beauty of my adventure as it really is.  Nothing about buildings (although I love them), but an adventure about building days upon days of nonadventure wholeness, a softness not of the pillow variety but a softness of the touch of persistent wind and softness of gentle determination.  A loud silence of ones own thought.

That and once in awhile a good belly laugh. (If I am going to be adventurous, I might as well write the book on ‘happy adventure’.  I mean, why not?)  So, please give me the adventure of walking through the woods during winter.  Let me walk down the road in a blizzard with the dog, my jacket wide open to feel the bite of winter wind upon my usually sheltered skin and my mouth just as wide open, scooping up snowflakes, giggling as I call after Wally, my dog.

I have nothing against the trips to Barbados and condos around the globe, but I think for ninety percent of us, that is not life.  And life gets pretty grey (and not in those ‘Shades of Grey’ grays either.)

 

 

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The above pictures?  Adventures of inspiration.  My annual experimentation with poinsettias and colors.  Softness and growth.  Adventures differ from person to person but that is itself a starting point.  Launch yourself into active observation.  Give yourself time.  Give your brain a chance to breathe.  Learn to make decisions.  Learn to think without stress.

 

So, I am on an adventure.  My own kind.  Depending upon how you look at it, I am either resetting or maybe, I finally found my path.  Oh, I do not think I messed up like ‘look at all the years I wasted.’  No, I think it took my lifetime to realize how greatly I wanted that path.

 

During a snowstorm on a Monday night with 1983 soft techno, instrumental vibey music videos with pre-digital art videos, with the smell of a cup of coffee I had spilled, and with the sounds of my son’s voice and the sight of Wally at my feet, I begin my nonadventure adventure.  Softly. Purposefully.

Lioness 101

Seems fitting, to choose a Monday adventure that which scares, yet calls to my heart.  To be lucky enough to have a chance to choose.

 

Lioness 102.

I have a long way, a long long road before I ever begin to write decently.  But that’s another point of my adventure – I have learned about myself.

The first thing I have learned?

I never give up.

(giggle).

Love.  Lots of love. And a kiss.

~Stephanie

How to love Valentines Day ~ from a Heart of Soot

How to love Valentines Day ~ from a Heart of Soot

February 14, 2018

Ah, Valentine’s Day. As long as I have been writing, Valentine’s Day wrenches the writer out of me whether I am in mode celebration or succumbing to a full-out rant.  Some years I ignored the day entirely or at least made appearances to do so.  One year I wrote that all-out rant as if by philosophically and emotionally shredding the day I could somehow show, beyond that doubt’s shadow, the meaninglessness of the day.

Nope, not a fan.  Not a fan of the day, I would write.  Not a fan of the openly, sometimes shallow demonstrativeness of the day and especially not a fan of inflated price tags.  Or I could have been a bit jealous.  I would not now deny that possibility.

But I smile remembering that there were years when I declared myself to be the love warrior.  I had believed in the greatest power on earth, that ability to love and be loved, and I was the champion of that cause.

Are you cringing yet?  Yes.  And then my world fell apart.  Ouch.

But all that is past tense.  This is 2018.  It is Valentine’s Day.  2018.  And…it is Ash Wednesday.  I am sure the two have collided along the way before, two holidays so hopelessly opposites, kissing each other like lovers caught in some sort of flaming dimension warped by time, pecking quickly at each other, reuniting in a twenty-four marathon until they spin off again.  Ashes and love, love and ashes. Surely there is a story there?

The imagery and colors of such a reunion is an artist’s orgasm of black and red;  the smoking embers glowing in the nests of the phoenix;  Cupids and Aphrodite pulling love from the burning hell of hatred.  (It is almost too much artistic possibility to process).

On the Valentines Day side, I do applaud the couples in my life.  Their unions are cheer worthy.  I remind myself that there are people who have found each other, and twirl through life in health, love, and adventures all their own.  In that manner, though, I have found, life feels as though I have drifted away from any thought of both love or the hurt with which I associate love.  I drift away from it all.  Yet life has gotten very sweet.

I had pulled out my selection of Valentine’s Day decorations, had laid them on the grey concrete, then arranged them all complete with lighting from two strings of gummy heart lights. I had in my mind those gooey red heart lights, five red tapered candles with as many red candle holders, heart dishes and cake pans and, of course, the stuffed black and white cat who, upon the pressing of a paw labelled with the instructions to press it, speaks in a charming voice to ‘love me, darling’.  I had wanted to photograph an explosion of valentines sentiments which I had kept for twenty years.  It had seemed jolly fun, smugly, tongue in cheek, which teetered neatly and abundantly upon sarcasm.

It would be my official Valentine’s Day photograph.

 

 

But, I could not do it.  Oh, I had taken the photographs.  But as I began to edit the reds and the adorable stuffed kitten and red tapers, my eye was captured by those strings of gooey red hearts.  As I looked at the photos, my eye kept latching to those hearts, especially to the few that held unto its cord back to the outlet, their gooey color, red flames upon the cold grey concrete.

I grabbed those hearts, stringing them against the brick of the fireplace.  There, there it was.  Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day.  Simply, with my heart smudged with soot.

I had built a beautiful light display with purple lights entitled “Glow”.  I meant it in tribute to a family who lost one of their family members too early.  She would have been the type of person who would have loved my building and the plans for the gallery.  She might have loved how bold the building is and how subtly it changes.  I think she would have really loved the story of how the building and business began and what has meant to my life.  I had meant to continue with the light display, but as I looked at the gallery space, I thought…

Well, I would have wanted her to see the work, the building first.  If I had but one chance for her to see the gallery, one chance for her to see or for anyone, I would want those eyes to see the building more than me or my lights.

So I decided to get to work.  I had read of a woman who had watched Youtube videos to build a home for her family. (She did it too).  Granted, I cannot do that with a commercial space, but I certainly did not have to wait.  As much as I love the artistry of lighting, if I had one chance, I would want to show those steel trusses.

So, for an early Valentines Day gift to myself, I rented a dumpster.  I am exposing those handsome ninety year old trusses and removing any materials I cannot salvage.  Step One.

How does one love Valentine’s Day?  “Oh let me count the ways,” or so the poem reads.  Imperfectly is the first thought that comes to my mind.  I have thought about the exotic combination of Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday 2018, an undeniable dance of color, philosophy, mysticism and even theology.  Woefully unqualified, I pray for the guidance of whether faith defines itself ultimately with a loving heart simply sewn with ash or our human hearts a speck among the loving ashes?

Hmm.  Those are questions to ponder.

My conclusion?

I found my answer in those gummy heart lights and in the cardinals which visit my birdfeeders at eleven in the morning, each morning.  I believe that I do not have magic seed for them, but I think I am graced with the perfect combination of food, quiet, and warm sunlight.  The male cardinals typify the angry bird character in their chubby brilliant red chests and blackened beards to outline proud orange beaks.  Stunning, sharp colors.

What I had not ever noticed were the colors of their backs and I have been fascinated by them ever since.

The male cardinals, their backs, are a beautiful grey.  It is a grey purpled, almost as if singed by the flame which colored their red chests.

Sooted.  A heart of soot.

 

Somehow, with that thought, I could love Valentine’s Day.  For me.  I could love Valentine’s Day with my heart of soot.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Love you. Lots.

Stephanie

 

Of building, bonfire and all that is bricked beautiful.

Of building, bonfire and all that is bricked beautiful.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How dare we think of January only as a month to last through, as if the unfolding days are not worth their time.  I was a Christmas snob cloaked in my sentimentality of  holiday songs, warm passionate holiday colors and evergreen trees and boughs which adorned my home. Or perhaps I just really really like Christmas. (I am still brushing up piles of pine needles as I sweep carpets, floors and heat vents.)

Oh I know I lamented, refused even, to give into the crisp blues and sparkles of January, but I did.  (I did paint my nails the frostiest blue I could find).  It was time.  With ridiculous stubbornness, I unplugged the building light displays.

But subzero temperatures had delayed family Christmas season outings until Epiphany Saturday.  And while the meal, conversations and football games were more than enough, a true new tradition was born when everyone had left.  Everyone that is, except for my eighty-two year old mother and I.

With a fresh pot of coffee, the two of us packaged and organized Christmas village decorations back in red Christmas storage boxes.  She dusted tree ornaments, most of which had been given to me from her.  We both smiled.  I rewrapped.  Ornaments were retucked in their green plastic storage container.  In an epiphany of epiphanies, I saw spread out before me an organized color-coding of history, memories and a bit of the rights of womanhood.  From my mom.  From me.  From years ago.  Hmm. My excuse of not having the capacity for creativity, high intelligence and organization was becoming very flimsy (yes, please laugh and roll your eyes).

My mother and I packaged and talked until two in the morning.  We also managed to eat half a fruitcake.

Shhh.  I am recycling red and white.  Turns out, I will be early for Valentines Day.  Shhh….

Technically the days are again growing longer.  Every three days or so, almost by instinct or habit or both, I find myself measuring the sunset shadows from trees to snow, partnering with the hands on the clock.  A bit further.  A bit longer the day.  A bit brighter.  Unfortunately the day’s length has little impact upon the temperature; an inviting sparkling hand which tempts a person, “come nearer,” with the bitterest of freeze-dried soul.

I have found a peculiar new passion for January in Wisconsin in grilling experiments and bonfires.    There is something magical about both, in the subzero temperatures.  The night blackens so quickly with the sun disappearing to a mild glow through the wooded horizon.  And then the sky is black.  With a moonless night, the stars are diamond studs lain across black velvet.  There would be no other way to display the universe’s finest.  In the woods, all around you is blackness except the soft blue-white snow and the lights of the house.

And of a bonfire crispy licking at the eight degrees below zero air which surrounds its flames.

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Graduation Clock. When I was young, I enjoyed tinkering with clocks to the point of reading about their mechanics.  This repair was only the scratching of those battery points and their replacement, but I have to admit to a reawakening of the joy…..of timekeeping.

He said, “I’m sorry.” Words I had never heard from him about anything deeper than a forgotten orange juice.  And that even might be giving him credit where none is due.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated.

I looked at him, stunned.  He had continued to explain he knew exactly when ‘it’ became clear.  I am not sure when he figured ‘it’ out but it had not been during months of marriage counseling.  During the thick of our battles, he had never been sorry.  Now you could be wondering about what type of shrew I would be, to not admit my faults.  Oh, I have plenty of ‘fault’.  I have plenty of sin and blame to place upon my shoulders.  I have no problem admitting it.

“I remember the night we went out to eat, for a Friday night fish fry.  It was just the two of us.  I messed up.  I’m sorry.”  Now, of course, the survival of a twenty year marriage does not depend upon one night out.  The spark is not lost on one incident.  Through the wretched last years of marriage, through the counseling and battles and attempts, it was an evening to which I kept referring.  We had gone to eat at a favorite country tavern.  It was one of those perfect ‘date like’ couple moments in which your top notch clothes and top-notch preparations are not demanded (because in reality, although a person loves Friday night, you have worked.  Best jeans, please.  Nice outfit.  Smell good.  Look smashing. Yes.  Black tie / pantyhose? Nope, save it.)  In Wisconsin the Friday night fish fry is a cultural staple.  Religious, not religious.  It does not matter.  Fridays are fish night.  A person may wonder at the quality but I assure you that this particular pub has the best baked scallops (and a wonderful whiskey, wink. ) and always the resounding echos of a week’s earned laughter.

It had been our chance at a romantic Friday evening so many years ago.  What happened I really wish not to write.  But it was not romantic and it was not salvageable.

We both began to cry, separated by the comfort of the distance of the kitchen island, a stove top width between us.  In a sappy romantic movie, the moment could have been a rush into each others arms.  A reconciliation.  It was reconciliation for us too, but it was a reconciling of one of the too many moments in our marriage which had been infliction rather than affection.

I let myself cry with him for the first time in three years, the distance he and I have traveled since the divorce. I did not rush into his arms. Nor did I run away.  I physically moved away from the kitchen island to the other side of the room in order to cry, still in the same room yet at a distance.  It was a space of a sorrowful kindness and tears of gratitude.  Healing in the first days of the new year.

Eventually our tears dried.  Managing the details of the business of raising our son replaced the scattering sentiments of our broken bond.  Our marriage was broken but not our family.  We have truly figured out how to be friends.

The beautiful blue white drama of Wisconsin’s January

“I’m sorry” had rung in my head.  For hours I was not really sure of neither how I felt nor of how I should feel.  I was stunned as if hit by bad news but I could not figure out why.  Was this not good news?

It took hours into the following day to realize the recognition of reality.  For the first time he had  admitted to what he had done.  Like a rope flung to another side of time, back to that time in my life, his apology secured a piece of my soul, bridging what I had written about to another perspective.  He had been a participant and a witness to the time when my whole world changed.  I had written journals during those days, trying to clear my own disbelief at the extreme nature of hatred I had felt from people who had called themselves my friends.  I had wrestled with understanding all of them, coupling their actions with justifications. I still held a smidgen of my own disbelief.

What happened to me professionally at that time was the literal icing on the cake.  I worked in a field, in a segment of society, which prides itself by the vows of its own doctrine, to lend a hand to those who had been downed.  I had been through years of a marriage in turmoil and during the last months of my marriage, my professional life and the life I had fell apart.  There had been no one to help me.  There was no hand, not to me, not to my husband, not to our marriage and especially not to our son.  In the months prior I reached for help to only find mockery and no one to help. Not from that part of my life.  Lately a new question popped in my head.

Why did not my friend, my boss, why did she not stand for me?  Why did she not reach out either to those above to assist me or to others around me? Another curiosity to which I no longer need an answer.

But I did find friends. I did. And I did hear an “I’m sorry” that seemed to be one of those blanketed apologies like an all-encompassing blanket property insurance policy.

It covered all damages.

 

His voiced words were like the painting of golden brushstrokes.  It was a moment of kintsugi. My wounds, my scars. I was sorry too.

Kintsugi.

My building, Matthias. Here, in the 1940’s, owned by a local national fox furrier company.  Rumor has it that Ms. Jayne Mansfield selected her furs here.
Me, the brick dandelion

 

Blessings to you.  May my life, to you,….well just know that anything is possible. Healing is possible. Have faith, work hard, believe, love.

Love you. Lots of love.

Stephanie

PS.  Oh! I almost forgot – the January vegetable grilling recipe.  Two red peppers for sweetness and color.  A large container of fresh baby bella mushrooms and a good sized head of broccoli.  Szechuan sauce and a bit of olive oil. Grill in aluminum or in a grilling vegetable basket alongside the meat.

Why do I feel like the adventure is just beginning? Hmm. Stay tuned. X